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“Peak Farmland”: Revealed Truth or Recreancy

William R. Freudenburg, A Life in Social Research

ISBN: 978-1-78190-734-4, eISBN: 978-1-78190-735-1

ISSN: 0196-1152

Publication date: 11 August 2014


Recreancy is a concept that received William R. Freudenburg’s studied attention. Freudenburg moved beyond its conventional meaning – shirking duty – to a larger realm of irresponsibility by public actors who breach a societal trust they assume. This research focuses on the issue of “Peak Farmland,” a rendering of global carrying capacity that, we suggest, qualifies for what Freudenburg called “privileged discourse” and possibly recreancy. Scholars identified with dematerialized progress argue that finite farmland in the face of increasing population will improve human welfare and spare land for nature. This iconoclasm presents an arena for testing academic probity with respect to global food security. After an overview of past carrying capacity debates, we summarize the “Peak Farmland” position of the dematerialization school and suggest an important blind spot: the dematerialization of the global land base itself. Gathering the results of multiple studies on land loss, we offer evidence that the world’s warehouse of productive land is not just peaking but eroding on a grand scale. Ignoring this form of dematerialization while proclaiming nearly unlimited carrying capacity for Earth’s denizens strains the meaning of responsible scholarship.




The authors acknowledge the helpful comments of Darragh Hare and Holly Buck in an early review of this chapter.


Geisler, C. and Currens, B. (2014), "“Peak Farmland”: Revealed Truth or Recreancy", William R. Freudenburg, A Life in Social Research (Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, Vol. 21), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 177-199.



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